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Environmental Health


Environmental Health refers to the branch of public health that focuses on how our environment impacts our physical well-being. In the context of VA benefits, it involves identifying, assessing, and mitigating environmental hazards and their impact on the health of veterans. This may include addressing issues related to toxic exposure, contaminated drinking water, or other environmental risks faced by veterans during their military service.

Key Takeaways

  1. Environmental Health in the VA benefits context refers to the programs and resources focused on investigating and addressing environmental hazard exposures faced by veterans during their military service and their potential impact on long-term health.
  2. The VA has established Environmental Health Coordinators at every VA facility who are responsible for assisting veterans with exposure concerns, providing information on potential risks and benefits, and facilitating access to appropriate healthcare services and benefits.
  3. Veterans who have been exposed to environmental hazards and have related health concerns may qualify for certain benefits, including health care, disability compensation, and support from the VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) for specialized care and expertise related to their exposure.


The term “Environmental Health” in the context of VA benefits is significant because it refers to the department’s ongoing assessment and management of potential health risks associated with exposure to environmental hazards during military service.

This encompasses a wide range of concerns, from toxic chemicals and substances to occupational exposures, ionizing radiation, noise, and more.

By addressing environmental health, the VA aims to ensure that veterans receive the appropriate support and high-quality care for any health conditions resulting from these exposures, ultimately contributing to their overall well-being and long-term health outcomes.

Furthermore, it highlights the VA’s commitment to raising awareness, conducting research, and implementing programs to aid veterans affected by environmental hazards while serving their country.


The primary purpose of the Environmental Health program in the context of VA benefits is to assess and mitigate potential health risks resulting from veterans’ exposure to hazardous materials during their military service. This program falls under the larger umbrella of Veterans Affairs, which aims to provide comprehensive support to veterans in various areas such as health care, education, and rehabilitation.

By addressing environmental health concerns, the VA ensures that veterans receive the necessary care and assistance to overcome the challenges posed by exposure to environmental hazards and protect the well-being of those who have served their country. The Environmental Health program plays a crucial role in carrying out thorough research and evaluation to identify potential links between military occupational, environmental exposures, and veterans’ health outcomes.

This information is then used to create policies and develop effective treatment plans tailored to the unique needs of affected veterans. Aside from conducting studies, the program is also responsible for educating veterans, their families, and health care providers about the potential risks associated with environmental exposures.

Through these efforts, the Environmental Health program contributes significantly to improving the quality of life of veterans and serves as an essential resource for those seeking support and assistance in addressing the health effects of occupational exposures during their military service.

Examples of Environmental Health

Environmental Health in the context of VA Benefits refers to the health issues that arise as a result of Veterans’ exposures to environmental hazards during their military service. These exposures may lead to illnesses or health conditions that may qualify for VA benefits. Here are three real-world examples related to Environmental Health concerns for Veterans:

Agent Orange Exposure: Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to remove foliage hiding enemy troops. Veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, have been exposed to Agent Orange. This exposure has been linked to various health issues such as cancers, type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases. Affected Veterans are eligible for VA benefits, including disability compensation and healthcare services.

Gulf War Illness: Veterans who served in the Gulf War may have been exposed to a variety of environmental and chemical hazards, such as oil well fires, pesticides, and biological warfare agents. Some Gulf War Veterans have developed unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses, commonly known as Gulf War Illness or Gulf War Syndrome. These can include symptoms like fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and gastrointestinal issues. The VA provides benefits, including healthcare services and disability compensation, to Veterans affected by Gulf War Illness.

Burn Pits: During the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the U.S. military used open-air burn pits to dispose of waste materials. Veterans who were deployed near these burn pits may have been exposed to harmful toxins from the smoke and fumes. This exposure has been linked to various respiratory illnesses, including chronic bronchitis, constrictive bronchiolitis, and lung diseases. Veterans affected by such conditions may be eligible for VA benefits, including healthcare services and disability compensation.

FAQ Section: Environmental Health

What is Environmental Health and its importance in VA benefits?

Environmental Health is a key aspect of healthcare that focuses on how a person’s surroundings influence their overall health and well-being. For VA benefits, Environmental Health is important because it addresses potential health risks associated with military exposures during service. Evaluating these exposures and understanding their impact on a Veteran’s health is crucial for providing necessary care and determining eligibility for associated benefits.

What types of exposures are considered under Environmental Health?

Environmental Health exposures in the military context include a wide range of factors, such as: exposure to toxic substances, air and water pollution, noise pollution, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, extreme temperatures, and hazardous materials handling. Many of these exposures can result in long-term health issues and are, therefore, relevant for VA benefits and healthcare services.

How do I know if I have been exposed to environmental hazards during my military service?

If you suspect you were exposed to any environmental hazards during your military service, it is important to discuss these concerns with your healthcare provider, preferably one experienced with veterans’ health issues. Additionally, the VA maintains a list of recognized exposure incidents and locations on their website. Reviewing these resources and discussing your military history with your healthcare provider can help to determine potential exposures and related health risks.

What kind of benefits and services can I expect if I have been exposed to environmental hazards during service?

If you have been exposed to environmental hazards during your military service, you may be eligible for a range of benefits and services from the VA. These may include healthcare services specifically geared towards addressing the health issues arising from your exposure, disability compensation, and various support programs designed to assist you with maintaining or improving your overall quality of life.

How can I apply for VA benefits related to Environmental Health?

To apply for VA benefits related to Environmental Health, you should first gather any documentation relating to your military service, including your discharge papers and any medical records that may be relevant. Once you have all your documentation, you can begin the application process by visiting the VA website and following the instructions provided for disability compensation or healthcare services. It is also recommended to consult with a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) who can assist you in navigating the application process and ensuring you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Air Quality
  • Hazardous Materials Exposure
  • Water Contamination
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Public Health

Sources for More Information